City decides new process for downtown revitalization

 

Revitalization of Fort St. John’s downtown core has been a recurrent topic over the past few decades and is continuing to be a point of debate at city council meetings.

City Council was given a presentation on a proposed new revitalization study at its Committee of the Whole meeting on Monday.

A downtown city core is both the heart of a community as well as an area that supports various cultural activities, says Kevin Brooks, the City’s planner.

Brooks says downtown city streets are one part of a city that should be designed to provide an area for residents to interact.

Several downtown revitalization studies have already been done over the past few decades and according to Councillor Larry Evans, the first dates back to the 1970s.

However, Brooks says what made the other studies different from the one currently being proposed was a lack of community involvement and consultation.

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Brooks says it is important to implement ideas that will attract residents and visitors to stay in the downtown area instead of simply passing through. He says one possible idea could be as simple as putting in benches.

However, he says that challenges such as time and the costs associated with revitalizing a city core can prevent beneficial ideas from being executed. He adds that it is also important to have concrete ideas set out in the City’s official community plan.

The proposed downtown revitalization plan included hiring a firm to provide a community workshop on what the revitalization process would entail, as well as to hire a firm to begin a charrette process. The combined costs associated with the two processes were estimated at between $160,000 and $190,000.

Brooks says the high costs associated with the two processes are due to rental space requirements and the fact that specialized personnel – charrette facilitators and negotiators – would have to be brought in to conduct the meetings.

City council agreed that imposing the costs of the workshop and the charrette process on taxpayers was extreme, especially if it is not known if any concrete decisions would be made.

Council instead passed a motion stating that city staff would work on educating the public on what an urban design process would entail and find out if it were something with which city residents would want to proceed. The cost of the altered process would be up to $7,500.

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